A Baptist-minister-turned-Buddhist chaplain from Memphis will open the first meditation center in the history of the U.S. Army in June.
The Bagram Dharma Center in Afghanistan will be classified as a “faith-based resiliency center,” and it gives Capt. Thomas Dyer, a self-admitted paradox, a better way to connect his Eastern beliefs, Southern roots and Middle Eastern deployment.
“Buddhism says that the quality of your life is dependent on the quality of your mind and thoughts. Soldiers are thirsty for that in Afghanistan,” said Dyer, who can’t shake his soft Southern drawl, not even as his mouth closes around that most sacred of ancient syllables, the “om.”
The center will open at Bagram Airfield, where Dyer has been leading meditation classes and providing spiritual support for Army Buddhists since being deployed there in January. Dyer’s center will be just one small part of the Army’s push to train more resilient soldiers to better withstand the strain of multiple deployments in long foreign wars.
It is not a Buddhist temple, but rather a building dedicated to Eastern health and spiritual practices for the benefit of Buddhist and non-Buddhist soldiers alike — although it will have a Buddhist altar and statues inside.